25 November 2004
The cities of Natal, Brazil; Bogota, Colombia; Esmeraldas, Ecuador; Tegucigalpa, Honduras; and Falmouth, Jamaica, are the recipients of the first City with a Heart award.
On 5 December, International Volunteer Day, the five cities received the award for their outstanding achievements in engaging residents through voluntary action in urban development projects, especially in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Initiated by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and in partnership with UN-Habitat and the Inter-American Development Bank's Initiative on Social Capital, Ethics and Development, the award serves as a reference point for recognizing excellence in volunteer promotion for urban development at the community level.
The winning cities were selected on the basis of several criteria including the level of partnership and civic engagement, significance of activities undertaken, as well as sustainability and overall contribution to the MDGs.
Richard Huber, UNV project coordinator, says the award stemmed from UNV’s pilot-project Caring Cities: Support to Intra-City Volunteerism. The project, which started in 2002 and recently completed its pilot phase, is based on the idea that volunteerism represents a significant and underutilized asset that can contribute to urban development, strengthen civil society and local governments, and foster participatory local governance.
"With the Caring Cities project, we see that volunteerism can be an incredibly powerful rallying point for citizen involvement in addressing the urban issues many cities are faced with,” he says. “This award raises awareness of what some cities are doing in promoting volunteerism for local development and encourages other cities to realize what a rich resource their own voluntary sector represents."
Two of the cities honoured by the award, Esmeraldas and Falmouth, were part of the Caring Cities project.
Huber says the award should also draw attention to other cities where volunteerism is making a difference. Next year’s award will invite cities from around the world to participate or nominate community groups and organizations active in urban development.
Backgrounder on the winning cities:
Natal, Brazil -- Natal Voluntarios and the Tempo program
For the past five years, Natal Voluntarios has been driven by the belief that through volunteerism and civic engagement, the people of Natal could solve many of the city’s problems. One initiative has been its Tempo program, whereby specific events have rallied thousands of residents to participate in joint activities to address urban problems. The fourth Tempo focused on the Millennium Development Goals and the everyday steps residents could take part in to help fulfill the Goals.
Bogota, Colombia -- Bogota without Indifference, Bogota without Hunger
“Bogota without Hunger” is a public policy priority of the Mayor's Office of Bogota. With fifty percent of the population living under the governmental poverty line, the program acknowledges the responsibility of local government to meet basic needs while also encouraging a sense of solidarity and social inclusion among all sectors of the population. In addition to its focus on food security, the program also takes into account other needs in the areas of health, education, personal security, and housing. The program has three areas of intervention: Urban-Regional, addressing supply issues; Social, ensuring the delivery of food to the neediest through neighborhood kitchens, and encouraging healthy eating habits; and Reconciliation, mobilizing the participation of the private sector, volunteers, and NGOs to emphasize the role of all of society in creating an inclusive city where no one is excluded.
Esmeraldas, Ecuador -- Municipal Office of Volunteerism
The Municipal Office of Volunteerism organizes volunteers and community groups to implement local development projects in partnership with the municipality. Through this collaboration, several initiatives have been launched such as weekly a radio broadcast on a variety of social topics and school talks on sexual and reproductive health. The office was created to multiply municipal investments by leveraging the community’s human and financial resources to carry out many initiatives. Examples include: public works in parks and schools, the installation of playgrounds, reforestation projects, and professional trainings by university students for a number of groups and neighbourhoods.
Tegucigalpa, Honduras -- Art for All
In July 2004, 56 artists from Honduras and around the world volunteered their time and talent to visualize the MDGs through murals and sculptures. The artists spent 15 days out on the city’s streets sharing their talent and exchanging ideas with local children, other artists and the public. During the two-weeks it took to complete the project, some 500 people helped create 45 pieces of artwork throughout the city. Support for the project came from many private companies, Honduras’ First Lady, and several UN agencies. The project has beautified public spaces, provided the city’s residents with a renewed sense of civic pride, and raised awareness on the MDGs. The project’s coordinator, Peter Claesson, UNV’s Programme Office in Honduras, recently received the United Nations Development Programme’s Administrator’s Award for Innovation and Commitment. The city has also been named the Ibero-American Culture City for 2005.
Falmouth, Jamaica -- Volunteer Hands Making a Difference in Falmouth
With the help of UNV’s Caring Cities project, the town in 2002 started a process of revitalizing its rich but fading culture of volunteerism and self-help. Since that time, schools were rehabilitated, the fisherman’s beach cleaned and developed, local monuments and parks refurbished, a book drive for low-income students held, and a number of local associations—fishermen, artisans, neighbourhood groups—received professional trainings to update their skills and learn new technologies. These activities had not previously been possible given the local government’s lack of funds. Voluntary activities in the city are now coordinated through a joint committee.